I have been to many ordinations in my day, including my own back in 1977 at the First Baptist Church of Murray. I have participated in some, led some, and observed some. But none like the one I attended last Saturday, with my back up against the sanctuary wall on Fifth Street in Louisville, Kentucky.
I arrived just as the clergy were lining up to enter the church. All the clergy of the archdiocese of Louisville: priests, deacons, professors, and candidates. Among them Shayne Duvall, AoP’14, just graduated from St. Meinrad Seminary. Shayne preached at the 2014 National Festival of Young Preachers in Indianapolis, Indiana. His sermon from James chapter 4, “Who Are You to Judge Your Neighbor?” can be watched here.
Fr. Shayne has been appointed to serve with Fr. Martin Linebach at St. Joseph Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Martin is my friend. He is the ecumenical officer of the archdiocese and in that capacity introduced himself to me at a meeting in the summer of 2008. Since then he has been to all six National Festivals and now serves as a Director on our board. I love and admire him.
Martin played a central role in the ordination, selected by the candidate to be the person to robe him: to remove the deacon’s sash and replace it with the priest’s stole and chasuble.
That came about half way through the two hour service, and I was standing the whole time because there were no empty seats in the Cathedral.
“Who are all these people?” I asked my friend Sharon Schulmann who is a devout Catholic, completing her doctorate in preaching at Aquinas Institute in St. Louis. “They are family and friends,” of course, “but also people from the various churches these three men have served. And of course, all the priests and deacons of the diocese.”
Who knew? And because I didn’t, I ended up standing on the periphery observing the entire two-hour service: procession, music, prayers, scripture, vows, sermon, and such.
Some of it was very familiar: the laying on of hands, the giving of gifts, and the reception that followed. Just like a Protestant service of ordination.
Some of it was strange: the pledging of obedience to the bishop (or in this case, the archbishop), the lying prostrate on the floor in front of the altar, and the anointing of hands with the “oil of chrism.”
Throughout, the music was wonderful: a fabulous soprano cantor, the cathedral choir above me in the loft, and the use of both organ and piano. And the people sang. Wow, did they sing, and it was beautiful, especially the repetition of “veni Sancte Spiritus” during the lengthy laying on of hands. I liked especially the communion song: “If you love me, feed my lambs; be my heart, my voice, my hands. If you love me, feed my sheep, and for my part, I give you the heart of a shepherd.”
And the closing hymn is one I wish were sung in more Protestant and Evangelical churches:
To be your presence is our mission here, to show compassion’s face and list’ning ear, to be your heart of mercy every near.
To be your presence is our mission bold, to feed the poor and shelter homeless cold, to be your hands, your justice to uphold.
To be your presence is our mission blest, to speak for all the broken and oppressed, to be your voice of hope, your love expressed.
We are your heart, O Christ, your hands and voice, to serve your people is our call and choice, and in this mission we, the church, rejoice.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz led the service with his winsome, humorous, and deeply spiritual way. His homily quoted Nicholas of Cusa (and I’m guessing not many of his listeners or my readers know anything of this 15th century intellectual) and Paul the Apostle, and Pope John Paul II. He also is my friend and will be a keynote preacher at the 2016 National Festival of Young Preachers. He laid his hands upon me when I came forward in the Eucharistic celebration and blessed me. And I received it.
“It was all educational and inspirational,” I told him afterwards. He was gracious and made me feel at home. I hope some of the spirit I felt in that service of ordination stays with me for a long time. I need it.